Fulton County Commission District 4 would be Natalie Halls’s first elected office. She spoke to Saporta Report via email.
Q: What’s your biggest concern for Fulton County Commission District 4?
A: The Board of Commissioners froze residential property tax assessments at the 2016 assessment levels. This measure temporarily avoids large assessment increases and, consequently, huge property tax hikes that were facing many homeowners. A strategy will need to be implemented to ensure that constituents receive fair and equitable property tax increases to avoid creating a sticker shock effect.
The majority of Fulton County’s revenues for governmental funds comes from property taxes, which are based on property values as of January 1 and are payable July through October, it is often necessary for the county to borrow cash for operational expenses during a portion of the year. The budget process is the mechanism for allocating public dollars. I want to ensure that we pass the budget in January 2018 without a reduction in force (RIF) impacting employees and cuts in department services and programs that will impact constituents. We need a county budget that continues to serve our constituents by providing access to effective and efficient health care, eradicating HIV/AIDs, supporting Grady Hospital, serving our seniors and youth, and providing jobs and economic opportunity for everyone.
Q: What could you, as a commissioner, do about that, what are some policy ideas?
As commissioner, I will collaborate and work with my colleagues on the Board of Commissioners, the city of Atlanta, and Atlanta Public Schools to address the millage rates. I will also work with the chief appraiser and tax commissioner to create a plan that addresses the need for an overhaul of the property tax assessment process. I will also work with the state legislators to reevaluate how the state tax code impacts the residents of Fulton County. A few additional policy issues that I will evaluate with my colleagues are an exemption from school taxes for seniors and the homestead exemption.
Q: In Fulton County, a lot of public services are handled by the cities. What do you see as the role of the county government and of the Commission?
A: Fulton County government’s role is to deliver efficient, high impact human services to every resident and visitor in Fulton County. The chief legislative and policy-making body of Fulton County government is the seven-member Board of Commissioners. The focus of the Board of Commissioners is to create an environment where “All People” are safe, healthy, self-sufficient, have economic, cultural, and recreational opportunities, and trust their government. With these outcomes as the guiding focus, citizens, employees, and businesses have the opportunity to rise to their full potential, integrate Fulton County Government agencies by the delivery of quality services in a cost effective manner, and enable the county manager and staff to evaluate or examine programs, services, and activities that help in achieving the overall goals set for the county.
DUTIES OF THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS:
1. Establishing policies for the health and welfare of County residents
2. Appointing government officials such as the County Manager, County Clerk, County Attorney and County Auditor
3. Adopting an annual budget for County government operations
4. Authorizing Bond Referendums
5. Enacting plans for County growth and development; and leading the operation of a system of courts that includes Probate Court, State Court and Superior Court Judges, the Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Courts, the District Attorney, the Solicitor General, the Sheriff, the Marshal, and the Public Defender
Q: What’s something the Fulton County government has gotten right in the last 10 years?
A: Fulton County government has been a leader in the state of Georgia in many areas. One of the most important is that Fulton County has achieved excellence in the area of being first in class for being a transparent, open, and honest government. Fulton County has been named the 2017 Best in Nation in Civic Engagement and Public Information Award recipient from the National Association of Counties. This NACo Civic Education and Public Information award acknowledges Fulton County as a national leader in government transparency and constituent engagement.
Q: Now let’s talk about the other side of the coin: in the last 10 years, what’s something the Fulton County government has gotten wrong or failed to do?
Fair and equitable property tax assessments.
Q: Overall, bottom line, why should people vote for you, what’s your pitch to the voters?
Experience matters. This is a special election to serve the district 4 constituents the remainder of the late Fulton County District 4 Commissioner Joan P. Garner’s term. My role as the chief of staff to the late Fulton County District 4 Commissioner Joan P. Garner not only makes me the most qualified to fill the position, it also makes me the only candidate with county government Board of Commissioner’s executive level experience and the internal and external relationships needed to navigate the upcoming county budget process and many other county related tasks that are critical to serving the district 4 constituents. I also have over 25 years of public and private management experience. There is only one year remaining in this term and District 4 constituents cannot and should not have to suffer while an inexperienced candidate gets in this office and takes time to learn the process and the people to get things done. I am the only candidate with hands on commission level, county government experience delivering services to, addressing the needs of, and resolving issues for the residents and visitors in Fulton County. That’s why “Experience Matters,” and I am the only candidate with the necessary county government experience to effectively and efficiently serve District 4 constituents.